Thursday, April 5, 2007

Five Most Important Security Considerations for VoIP

It is understandable why so many organizations are moving to a Voice over IP infrastructure. VoIP is one of the fastest growing technologies in telecommunications today, thanks to its low cost and great flexibility. However, due to VoIP's special security vulnerabilities, the assimilation of VoIP systems in enterprises involves major security risks, and requires deep organizational thought and examinations regarding the ideal VoIP architecture. Enterprises are under the mistaken assumption that existing network architecture can still be used “as is” following the addition of a VoIP infrastructure. However, this addition can damage the quality of service in the enterprise. Moreover, this can also cause financial damage and damage to the organization's reputation.
Enterprises that decide that they wish to change their voice communication infrastructure into VoIP face a great challenge. This change requires principal thoughts and raises essential questions regarding issues that affect the architecture of the network and the interface between VoIP and the data network.
The following section will outline the risks that financial organizations have to consider when implementing a VoIP infrastructure:

Risk to Existing Data Network
The deployment of some VoIP systems can damage an enterprise's information security layout including the quality of services provided by these systems. As VoIP services run on the organization’s existing platforms, they are exposed to the same information security breaches. Networks that are not secured enough can damage VoIP and other environments in the enterprise, thus they must be designed and secured in the most appropriate way. Since a financial organisation relays on the existing data network for business critical applications, e-Banking infrastructure and transactions, damaging it could lead to a huge financial loses as well as lost of trust.

Opening VoIP to the Internet
Privacy and security regulations dictate that financial institutions are ultimately responsible for the privacy of their client/partners. Opening VoIP components to external communication besides the inter-organizational communications increases the exposure of the internal network to security risks. In addition to that, VoIP applications are exposed to data stealing, eavesdropping, impersonation and denial of service; vulnerabilities which can affect the data network if not configured correctly. The leakage of unpublished financial reports or client’s confidential information can damage organization’s reputation as well as lead to financial loses. Organizations need to ensure that VoIP deployment does not minimize enterprise's information security or quality of services and examine the risks to its information.

Data Stealing and Eavesdropping
Similarly to other data, VoIP is exposed to attacks and attempts to make use of software breaches. VoIP eavesdropping attempts are even more easily executed than PSTN calls. Organizations need to inspect the access control list and policy enforcement; will make sure that the machinery is configured in such a fashion that only permitted individuals can use VoIP and implement a maximal secured network with context to VoIP oriented attacks. All of these can contribute to making the financial institution's infrastructure more secure from external and internal threats.

Assuring Business Continuity
Availability of e-Banking applications, financial databases and other business IT assets is critical to financial organisation. A single power outage can cause financial and image damages to the enterprise and its services due to the lack of ability to use VoIP. Organizations will have to evaluate the options, costs and efficiency in business continuity in case of a power outage that prevents the ability to use VoIP. Also, organizations will have to examine and evaluate various business continuity plans to overcome this obstacle.

Endpoint Security Issues
Integration of some types of endpoints into VoIP systems can damage the security level of the network. VoIP systems use a wide variety of forms for communication, ranging from the traditional telephone handsets to conferencing units, mobile units and soft-phones. However, malicious codes and other various vulnerabilities are very common on PCs connected to the Internet, and must be checked in the integrative network to ensure its security. The organization will have to check the quality of Wi-Fi protection and soft-phones, if used.

Financial enterprises will have to ensure the optimal security before, during and after VoIP deployment in the enterprise. Inadequate security may cause financial damage and damage to the organization's reputation.

Published under Comsec Consulting UK

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